Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sport, Bullying and the Gay Community

Bendigo City Councillor Leach

This past week, Local Government Councillor Leach from Bendigo in Victoria caused a stir when she wrote a letter to the Editor of the Herald Sun (Melbourne) newspaper. 

In the letter, Cr Leach says “we don’t want issues such as homosexuality, or any sexuality, thrusted in our faces in the name of anti-bullying”.“We won’t be attending any more games. Gay pride! What rubbish!”, it says.*
It seemed to me that she probably doesn't have any gay friends, but the article goes onto quote her as saying “I am not homophobic. I know lots of gay people.” In my usual zeal, I thought I need to email this women and let her now how I feel. I decided to temper my remarks and perhaps share with her some ideas that perhaps she hadn't considered or perhaps wasn't aware of. 

My email to her is below.

Good Morning Councillor Leach, 
It seems your letter to the editor of the Herald Sun has stirred a bit of a "cufuffle" (never sure how to spell that). 
I appreciate and understand your point and I can't help but feel perhaps it's been taken out context as tends to happen, especially around the issue of anything "gay". I think your point is valid, politics doesn't belong in sport nor should it be used as a platform to forward any political view. 
At the same time, I appreciate and understand why some in the AFL feel the way they do. Football, by its nature, is a very 'blokey' domain and one that has had a homophobic undertone for many years. Ben Cohen, the great UK footballer has a a charity he started called "Stand Up Against Bullying". Click Here to visit his facebook page. 
Ben is a great advocate for the underdog, the persecuted and the down trodden. He, his wife and their gorgeous kids are very involved in getting a very positive message out there that bullying in any form is a bad thing. Is this a political message? I don't think so. Ben is also very involved with the gay community and goes to great lengths to support various gay community events and to raise awareness in the community as a whole. 
I think there is space for Australian football bodies to do the same thing. It seems difficult to detach politics from the "gay" issue, possibly because of the gay marriage debate which some would argue is not political, but a basic human right.  
I'm also sensitive to young people who may be questioning their own sexuality, especially when they see negative news items about the gay community. They're young and inexperienced about things of the world and it can contribute to them feeling that they're being attacked personally. I'm sure you're aware of the rates of teenage suicide and the increased levels of such in the gay community, a tragedy for sure. 
Councillor Leach, you were quoted as saying that you have "many gay friends". This puts you in a unique position where you hold a local government political post and are in touch with a group within the community who can feel marginalised because of who they are.  
All the best to you, I hope the press doesn't go to hard at misrepresenting your comments. 

So, you might think I went a bit soft on her, I think I did too. However, sending her an email with me ranting would probably have been deleted long before she got past my greeting. I'm hoping that perhaps something I said here will help her see that there is a role, a really positive role for sports people to play in the anti-bullying, anti-homophobic debate.

Have You Engaged Local Politicians on the Anti-Bullying topic?

*SOURCE: The Weekly City Review

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for taking the initiative and sending her this. This is a well-written letter, and I hope she sees it and learns something or considers something anew. I agree that if you had "ranted" it would probably have had no effect at all, or even a negative one if any.